Meditations in 1 Samuel 32. Watch the Circumstances
1 Sam 16:14-16 Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better.”
In an earlier meditation (possibly two) we considered the subject of God’s providence, the hidden hand of God working behind the scenes, so to speak. So what have we seen so far? Saul making a mess of being king and being told God is going to provide a replacement, Samuel being sent to anoint a new king, and David being anointed as that king. However, we also noted, that it wasn’t a dramatic changeover and in fact, life very much continued on as normal – except not quite.
Our verses above are quite contentious. Saul’s life starts to take a downturn and the recorder puts it all down to the Lord. Now previously the Holy Spirit had come upon Saul and empowered him but when Saul did his own thing and was disobedient to the Lord, the Lord withdrew His Spirit from Saul. Saul is now on his own and vulnerable.
We need to wait until the New Testament to be told that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5;19) Also in the New Testament we see a leading apostle instruct, “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord,” (1 Cor 5:5) as a form of discipline. The revelation is that the Lord allows Satan to act as a ruler over unbelievers, hence Paul’s description, “the dominion of darkness,” (Col 1:13) which stands, with Satan ruling over it, in opposition to the kingdom of God. The Lord thus used Satan and his agents – demons or evil spirits – as means of disciplining or chastising unbelief.
With that in mind we now observe what is going on with Saul. Something appears to be seriously troubling him and the general consensus is that it is an evil spirit that God is either specifically sending or simply allowing. This must make Saul weak, for his attendants have the temerity to suggest to him it is an evil spirit. Now comes another interesting feature of this, the belief that soothing music can help. So what follows? “So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” (v.17) He goes along with their diagnosis. So, “One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.” (v.18) That’s interesting! David is already well-known as a musician as well as a shepherd – and that God is clearly with him. Now you might think that Saul could feel threatened by this description but when you are desperate you don’t bother about the details, you just want relief. If you’ve ever suffered a bad migraine or acute toothache you’ll know what we mean. Get me free of this!
“Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.” (v.19,20) Do you see the circumstances rolling out before us? The circumstances mean that the head and shoulders king is bringing the heart king in although the head and shoulders king doesn’t realise it and the heart king probably doesn’t yet really believe it, but is just getting on with his life.
So then we find, “David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.” (v.21,22) David comes, is liked by Saul who also gives him the job of an armour bearer and really appreciates him because, “Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” (v.23)
What a strange situation! Saul has been rejected by God and indeed is suffering because of God, but is now getting relief from God’s man who is established in his service. Why does God want David in Saul’s service? I ask the question assuming it to be valid because what we have read appears more than coincidence; it seems more like a careful plan. Assuming the premise to be correct, I can only make suggestions in the light of all that will follow: the Lord wants to give David opportunity to shine and to be seen by all Israel in preparation for the day when he is able to take the throne. He has thus got to be able to prove himself and that means being seen as more than a mere shepherd boy. He is going to be revealed as the warrior that he actually already is, a warrior with a heart after God; what a combination!
But isn’t that exactly what we are called to be? Ephesians 6 reveals the Christian life to be a life of battle, holding on to the truth, holding on to the Gospel, holding on to the wonder of who we are, and we do it as we relate to Jesus, knit heart to heart with him. What we are going to see is how two men run parallel to each other for a while until the heart man starts to take the lead and becomes a threat to the head and shoulders man. For a while it will appear head and shoulders will remain supreme, but the eventual outcome will be that God’s heart man will come through to take the kingdom. Watch this space.
Personal application? Will we be head and shoulders people or heart-for-God Christians? Will it be human wisdom and human strength, or will it be the heart of God being revealed by the Holy Spirit that will rule us?